Theatre Review - After The Act

SECTION 28 sounds like something you might read about in a dystopian novel but the oppressive act, prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality by schools and local authorities, is a stain on our recent past.

Introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1988, it lasted until 2003.

Breach, the acclaimed multimedia performance company, has decided to mark the 20 years since its repeal. Co-founders and writers, Ellice Stevens and Billy Barrett blend drama and documentary to terrific effect in this joyfully defiant musical

After The Act combines the words of students, activists and teachers, as well as tabloid articles and news clips, to give a vivid sense of the homophobia and hopelessness of the time and the impassioned fightback the act provoked.

For young people confused about their sexuality or struggling to feel accepted, Section 28 caused untold damage. Many support groups were forced to limit or censor their activities.

The scaremongering began after Haringey Council made the children’s book, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin, available to schools in the borough. Some local parents reacted negatively and the anti-gay sentiment escalated nationwide, fuelled by the fear and paranoia surrounding Aids. Inevitably, the tabloid press and bilious political debates fanned the flames.

The four-strong cast, Tika Mu’tamir, Ellice Stevens, EM Williams and Zachary Willis play various roles from the lesbian activists who interrupt the Six O’Clock News to a PE teacher who, scared of losing her job, conceals her sexuality and fails to support a student. Stevens does a wickedly camp turn as Thatcher in a neon blue dress and wig.

After The Act recreates a terrifying period but also celebrates the power of protest and community. Musical director Frew and Ellie Showering accompany the action, using synthesisers to recreate an 80s club vibe.

Deliberately rough around the edges, the words often spoken rather than sung, this is an emotive, thrilling show that entertains and educates in equal measure. Unmissable.

Until April 1

Originally published by Camden New Jounal